The Heat did its best on Wednesday to cheer up Josh McRoberts.
Every time a reporter tried to ask him a question about possibly missing the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his right knee, his teammates were there to make him laugh.
“We love you J-Mac,” Dwyane Wade shouted from one corner of the Heat locker room.
“You know, the best care for a tear is some TLC when you get home,” guard Mario Chalmers told McRoberts while pretending to hold up a tape recorder next to a group of sports writers.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen then added: “How did it feel whenever it felt the way it did?”
McRoberts got a good chuckle out of all the playful antics from his teammates. But the truth is making peace with his recent bad news hasn’t been easy.
“What can you do? I just kind of look at it as it’s part of the game, the risk of playing,” McRoberts said. “It’s tough to deal with it. But you deal with it, make the best of the situation and try to get better.”
Signed to a four-year deal this summer, the 6-10, 240-pound former Duke star was finally beginning to play like the versatile big body the Heat needed.
His season highs in playing time (33:02), assists (seven) and three-pointers (two) came in the Dec. 9 win against Phoenix. Two days before that, he had a season-high 14 points at Memphis.
“I felt like I was starting to finally feel a rhythm,” said McRoberts, who was slowed early in the season by back trouble and off-season toe surgery. “Part of that was starting to feel healthy with that toe.
“I felt the most comfortable I felt in that Phoenix game. To play the whole game and kind of go down at the end of that game is kind of the story of the season for me in terms of just a frustrating way to go out.”
McRoberts said he will have surgery either Monday or Tuesday next week. He has only played in 17 games.
The Heat, decimated by injuries this season, has only had its projected starting lineup of Norris Cole, Wade, Chris Bosh, McRoberts and Luol Deng together on the floor for 34 minutes this season.
Asked whether there is a shot he might come back before the end of the season, McRoberts said: “I’m probably the wrong guy to ask about that. It’s probably something I should ask. I’m not exactly sure.”
The Heat is expected to apply for a disabled-player exception with McRoberts out. Should the exception be granted (an independent NBA physician must deem it season-ending), the Heat would receive half of McRoberts’ season salary ($2.65 million) for a replacement player, either through a trade or free agency.
Even if McRoberts is ruled out for the season, he would still be allowed to return to the active roster before season’s end.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to make it back,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I plan on it or anything like that. I’ll obviously try to make the most of my recovery and rehab to come back as soon as I can. Who knows when that will be?”
With two of his front court starters out (Bosh is expected to miss a couple weeks), Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s told players to “be ready for the unexpected right now” in terms of lineups and playing time.
“That’s just the way it has to be,” Spoelstra said. “It might be different night to night. When you have two of our starting frontcourt players out it might be matchup based. For us to find absolute consistency right now it might not be in a rotation. That might not be the reality. The more efficent way to do it right now is be ready for minutes and be productive in your minutes.”